People between the ages of 18 – 24 are twice as likely to be involved in a singular vehicle crash than those in the 25 – 49 age group. This shocking statistic is due to texting or using a mobile phone while behind the wheel of a car.

According to Liam Clarke, commercial manager of the Bakwena N1 N4 Toll Road Concessionaire, in Pretoria, it takes about four seconds to read a text, and another five seconds to type a reply. This means that for nine seconds, your eyes are off the road. Couple this with bad weather, speeding, poor visibility or even alcohol and a disaster could strike in those nine seconds.

As reported by the International Transport Forum’s (ITF) Annual Road Safety Report, South Africa has one of the highest crash rates in the world. Twenty-five percent of these crashes are caused by the use of a mobile phone while driving.

The ITF lists the main cause of distraction while driving as passenger interactions, with the use of mobile phones while driving as the second. Other distractions include eating and drinking, as well as grooming.

The group’s 2017 report noted that 25.2 deaths per 100 000 people were caused by car crashes. This costs the economy R143-billion annually.

According to the Road Management Traffic Corporation (RTMC), 77.5% of all crashes were caused by human error. Vehicle errors contribute 6% and environmental factor make up 16.5%.

Clarke added that road crashes often lead to victims being disabled, which results in the loss of income or employment. The death of a breadwinner may result in their dependents living in poverty. This may also negatively affect the mental state of their friends or family.

In South Africa, drivers who are caught using their mobile phones while driving will receive a fine of up to R750. In the Western Cape, this offense is punishable by with a R500 fine. The mobile phone itself will also be impounded, with a release fee of R1 140.

ITF says mobile phone usage while driving affects driver competence, resulting in a 37% decrease in parietal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for language.

To read the full report, click here Annual Road Safety Report

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.